I was intrigued by a snippet in Vaughn Palmer's column yesterday, reporting that Premier Gordon Campbell is musing about restoring taxing authority to boards of education. But, if that happens, it will be just the latest in a long line of funding changes for those boards.
The premier made the announcement at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention. I had to hear this for myself, so I found a video of his speech. This is what he said:
"Maybe we need a new funding formula for K to 12. Maybe we need to restore taxing authority for boards of education. Maybe we need..."
He paused. There was some detectable clapping in the audience.
The premier continued, smiling, "Go ahead the boards of education...if you want taxing authority, be careful what you wish for."
What's new is old, again; what's old is new, again.
And the following table, included in a 1997 University of Toronto master's thesis by Susan A. Carson, shows just how old the idea of having school boards with taxing authority is.
It chronicles the changes in provincial education funding since 1872 - from full provincial funding through various degrees of funding by local property taxation and back again to full provincial funding by 1990.
Recall that 1990 was the last full year of the Social Credit administration and the year before the 'dismal decade of despair' - which began with the election of the New Democrats in 1991.
I suggest those involved in public education review Ms. Carson's chronology. Because the premier might soon be adding a new entry in to that table of changes.
Chronology of changes in education funding
1872-1888 - Full provincial funding.
1888-1944 - Local property taxation grows to 68% of education funding.
1945-1968 - Provincial funding increases to 55%. Cameron and Campbell reports establish Basic Education Programme based on equality of educational opportunity.
1968-1981 - Basic Education Program (BEP) of Social Credit government. Quantitative funding formula to control education costs. Limits imposed on school board spending.
1972-1975 - NDP elected and relax restrictions on school board spending. Gives school boards greater powers to raise local taxes.
1975-1981 - Social Credit re-elected. Increased costs in education due to low pupil/teacher ratios and increased spending on special education services.
1982 - Restraint legislation permanently removes right of school boards to tax business and industry, and right to levy residential property taxes temporarily removed. Minister may limit school budgets and Compensation Stabilization limits salary increases.
1984 - Fiscal Framework introduced. Standard costs set for education services.
1986/87 - Right to levy supplementary residential taxes restored to school boards.
1990 - Block funding introduced. Province to provide full and equitable funding to all school districts. Boards prohibited from raising additional taxes through residential taxes, save for referenda.
Eleanor Gregory is a former provincial Liberal constituency association president. She also served as Non-Partisan Association school trustee in Vancouver where she continues to practice law.